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Poll: Majority wants to break up big banks

By Claes Bell ·
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Posted: 10 am ET

The idea of Uncle Sam breaking up the country's biggest banks may sound far-fetched, but most Americans are actually in favor of doing just that.

A poll released this week by the Progressive Change Institute showed 58 percent of Americans support breaking up "big banks like Citigroup, which played a big role in the financial crisis and recently demonstrated they still have too much power by lobbying for and winning the repeal of a major reform designed to stop Wall Street abuse and taxpayer bailouts."

© STEPHEN LAM/Reuters/Corbis

Admittedly, that's a fairly loaded poll question, but a more subtle version of the same question still garnered majority support for a bank breakup across party lines:

  • 61 percent of Democrats in favor (17 percent opposed).
  • 47 percent of Republicans in favor (31 percent opposed).
  • 60 percent of independents in favor (24 percent opposed).

Voters, politicians differ on banks

Breaking up the nation's largest banks isn't a new idea. Everyone from a former Citigroup CEO to a prominent Republican senator to many bank company shareholders have expressed support for the idea.

In fact, a 2013 Rasmussen poll had almost identical results, with 50 percent of Americans favoring a breakup of "megabanks."

So why hasn't the concept made it into law?

It's not as if legislators haven't tried. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced a bill in 2013 that would have forced banks with more than $500 billion in assets to meet much tougher capital standards. That would have encouraged the largest banks to consider splitting up to avoid the increased cost of holding additional equity and less debt.

But Brown-Vitter had trouble attracting support in the Senate and has yet to go anywhere. That the finance industry is one of the biggest donors in campaign finance may be a factor. As of Nov. 16, the Wall Street banks and other financial interests spent $1.2 billion on campaign contributions and lobbying combined, according to Americans for Financial Reform.

In fact, just last month big banks won a key victory with the repeal of a Dodd-Frank measure that would have forced banks to push out some of their largest derivatives transactions to subsidiaries.

What do you think? Should the big banks be broken up?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

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January 28, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Also, we should hold our elected and paid officials responsible for allowing large corporations to set the rules of the game.

January 28, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Why stop there. How about the other large conglomerates who control their markets and take serious advantage of us, like the two big cell phone companies, the large cable companies (however with internet TV coming they may be out of the picture soon), insurance companies, oil and gas companies and so forth. These companies have a heavy influence on our government and policies, eliminate competition and stifle growth in the American economy.

Bob Dussault
January 28, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Bob D
It is sad that we are still talking about breaking up the Big Banks 8 years following the Financial Crisis their C-Suite Executives caused. Greed is a terrible thing, that seems to originate and grow unchecked within the Big Banks' Corporate environments.

Breaking up the Big Banks should be one of the main planks in all the parties' platforms as we approach the 2016 Elections. This topic should receive intelligent candid discussion by all Americans regardless of party affiliation. Let us see what happens...

January 28, 2015 at 2:51 pm

If the High court broke up AT&T back in the 60's why can they not break up the Banks because of monopoly's and control of the industries

January 28, 2015 at 2:48 pm

William Clark, you are clueless.....and obviously a Democrat. You sit and wait for your fine payment or debit card or whatever else handout you seem to feel you deserve while the rest of us work through this on our own. Not every big bank was at fault for what happened and the politicians should shoulder some of the blame instead of pointing fingers at whomever they think they need to point them at in order to get re-elected.

January 28, 2015 at 2:43 pm


william clark
January 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Time for Congress to stop this now, Break up the Big Banks today isn't soon enough. And charge all of them a fine that is to be paid to each citizen that who has held a job that will give them a retirement from SS. or who has worked for at least 15 years. the Government has all those figures they have compiled over the no excuses from the Federal Government , and also start an adult of the Federal Reserve Bank's next Monday.